review: descendant of the crane

TITLE: Descendant of the Crane
AUTHOR: Joan He
SYNOPSIS: Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death… because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?


SPOILER-FREE REVIEW:

First off, that cover is literally way prettier than I am, but that’s fine. It’s fine. Everything’s fine.

As someone of Taiwanese and Chinese descent, I don’t often see proper representation of Asian main characters in young adult novels. That, as well as the stunningly gorgeous cover and promising premise (okay, and the fact that it was on the syllabus for my young adult literature class this semester), motivated me to pick up Descendant of the Crane—and I loved it!

It was dark, twisty, and nasty in all the right places. The intricacy of imperial court politics really drove the plot forward, but the novel also does an amazing job of tackling the fundamental question of morality. Hesina has a lot on her plate. She has to learn that the path to the truth she craves so badly involves choosing between the lesser of two evils and possibly doing something “bad” for the greater “good.” She’s pushed into her role as the queen of Yan at the young age of 17, and her constant pursuit of the absolute truth about the circumstances surrounding her father’s death ends up causing her to tunnel vision, crash, and tumble.

One of my absolute favorite things about this book is the fact that the author, Joan He, avoids defining her characters as simply “good” or “evil,” allowing for the development of multi-dimensional, complex characters with believable motives. The vivid writing also brings to life the familial relationships between the various characters without emphasizing romance. Although I think that the focus on coming-of-age, morality, and political court maneuverings was ultimately a better move for the overall tone of the book, I do wish that the relationship between Hesina and Akira, the ex-convict-turned-defense-lawyer, had a stronger presence throughout the novel. Akira is definitely the most mysterious character after Caiyan.

Speaking of Caiyan…I won’t spoil anything but he is my favorite character in this novel. I know this book was marketed as a standalone, (???why??? is the publisher just waiting to see how well this debut does???) but you can bet I’ll be reading the companion novels.

If you’re looking for a Nirvana and Fire, Chinese-inspired fantasy infused with forbidden magic, court intrigue and bildungsroman, Descendant of the Crane should definitely be your next read!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

“What is truth? Scholars seek it. Poets write it. Good Kings pay gold to hear it. But in trying times, truth is the first thing we betray.” 

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playlist: love, lara jean

Me? In a young adult literature class? Does that even surprise anyone?

I must admit that before enrolling in this spring semester class on young adult literature, I had previously never read To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, despite all the hype and rave reviews that I saw throughout the online book community. The closest I got to better acquainting myself with the storyline was watching the Netflix adaptation starring Lana Condor and Noah Centineo at like 2am with my best friends. (I know, I’m absolutely AWFUL—who does that?! The book is always better, right?) It was definitely cute, but I still don’t think chick lit is the genre for me.

Anyway, for my final project in this class, I decided to put together a playlist based on the premise that Lara Jean creates a playlist for Peter Kavinsky. love, lara jean includes songs produced and performed by Korean artists, paying homage to Lara Jean’s half-Korean heritage, as well as songs sung in English.

for Peter K.
This was originally supposed to only be about 15 songs long, but because I enjoy making playlists way too much, I might have gotten just a bit carried away…
love, lara jean

[TRACKLIST]
I Like Me Better | Lauv
Good Girls | LANY
While We’re Young | Jhene Aiko
Euphoria | BTS
Trivia 承: Love | BTS
Just thinking about you | Vanilla Acoustic
In the Time Spent You | HEIZE
기억을 걷는 밤 Walk On Memories | EXO
내일, 오늘 Tomorrow, Today | JJ Project
Make it Right | BTS
Home | SEVENTEEN
Grape Soda | Rook1e
break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored | Ariana Grande
I Like U | NIKI
SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK | Joji
Talk | Khalid ft. Disclosure
Dancing With A Stranger | Sam Smith ft. Normani
PILLOWTALK | ZAYN
Better | Khalid
Day 1 ◑ | HONNE
FOOLS | Troye Sivan
Sucker | Jonas Brothers
instagram | DEAN
Miss You | Eric Nam
Hard To Love 나만 안되는 연애 | Bolbbalgan4
좋아합니다 i like you | Day6


For the songs in English:
I Like Me Better is pretty self-explanatory. One of the most prominent lines in the song, “I like me better when I’m with you,” holds true for Lara Jean when she’s around Peter K. He inspires her to be the best version of herself!

Good Girls is inspired by the fact that Lara Jean has always been the definition of a “good girl” throughout her life. She doesn’t cheat, drink, smoke, or party, and she has a fierce love and respect for her family.

While We’re Young captures the sentiment and feeling behind young, new love. Lara Jean possesses a kind of naïve and optimistic outlook on falling in love with Peter K.

Grape Soda in the context of this playlist describes the first romantic interaction between Lara Jean and Peter when they were very young. The song describes the feeling behind a quick kiss between two third graders during recess, which I’ve taken the liberty of comparing with the spin-the-bottle kiss between Lara Jean and Peter in seventh grade.

break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored pretty much sums up Lara Jean’s feelings about the whole Gen/Peter mess.

I Like U also has a self-explanatory title. Why Lara Jean just refuses to acknowledge that she likes Peter for the longest time is beyond my understanding, honestly.

SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK is such a major vibe. I can easily see Lara Jean and Peter doing exactly what the song title indicates.

Throughout the book (and the film), there were many instances of misunderstanding between the protagonists. Talk is a song about what they should have done in such instances.

Dancing With A Stranger…I included this one because I feel that at least at the beginning, Lara Jean doesn’t truly know Peter very well, since he’s been pretty far removed from her life thus far in terms of interaction. Before the start of the book, Peter was romantically involved with her former friend, Gen, who is prone to jealousy and previously kept a tight grip on him.

PILLOWTALK is, at its essence, a song about the ups and downs in relationships and how they test those who are involved. There are definitely a lot of ups and downs in the initial relationship Lara Jean has with Peter.

Better was included in this playlist because it reflects the kind of happiness that Lara Jean associates with Peter. It reminds me of the scenes in which he drives her and Kitty to school, and they have a delightful banter going between the three of them.

Day 1 ◑ …Actually, Peter isn’t Lara Jean’s Day 1 (I think that would be either her sisters or perhaps even Josh), but I still believe that this song delivers an important message about the ones who stay by your side and stand up for you.

FOOLS… “Only fools fall for you.” That’s probably how Lara Jean felt when Peter didn’t initially publicly deny the nasty rumors that Gen spread about her. As a result, she avoids him for the entirety of her winter break after the school ski trip.

Sucker could easily apply to either Lara Jean or Peter K. I find it so annoyingly cute (as trope-y as it is) that they like each other so much but refuse to see that they have something special together until much later.


For the songs in Korean:
Euphoria is exactly what its title promises. “You are the cause of my euphoria” is a line that resonates with Lara Jean when she spends time with Peter, though as stated above, she stubbornly refuses to admit it at times.

Trivia 承: Love plays with the idea that the act of loving is tied to that of living. It addresses the importance of self-love and self-worth, which is something that a lot of adolescents (like Lara Jean) struggle with.

Just thinking about you has a pretty self-explanatory title. It’s a cute, lighthearted Korean acoustic song that encapsulates Lara Jean’s wandering thoughts.

Perhaps the “with” that should be inserted between “time” and “you” in the song title was lost in translation, but the overall meaning of the song definitely wasn’t. In the Time Spent You is a reflection on the longstanding friendship between two people. I included this song to acknowledge the fact that Lara Jean and Peter K. have known each other for years, long before the events of TATBILB started.

기억을 걷는 밤 Walk On Memories has such a dreamy atmosphere, enhanced further by the lyrics about walking with a loved one at dawn while reminiscing on past memories. Perhaps Peter and Lara Jean didn’t exactly take a walk at dawn, but they did have late night talks…

내일, 오늘 Tomorrow, Today questions the choices and paths laid out before someone. I feel like this could apply to Lara Jean in terms of her relationship with Peter. She’s initially confused by her feelings and doesn’t always know what she wants, especially with Gen in the picture, stirring up more trouble for her.

“I could make it better, I could hold you tighter.” The lyrics of Make it Right detail the desire to better relationships, much like how Lara Jean and Peter are able to mend their relationship after a falling out over Gen’s past relationship with Peter and her desperation to win him back.

Home can be a person, place, or feeling (or in this case, a song title). I think the addition of this song shows that Lara Jean and her family feel comfortable including Peter in their definition of “home,” given that her father and younger sister are so receptive to his presence in their lives.

Remember when that video of Lara Jean and Peter K. in the hot tub was posted all over the internet/instagram? The way Peter stood up for Lara Jean after that incident was so heartwarming and sweet.

Miss You is also pretty self-explanatory. Throughout the book, it’s evident that Lara Jean misses her older sister Margot and feels terrible about not telling her about Peter.

In this playlist, Hard To Love 나만 안되는 연애 comments on the emotionally complicated nature of Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship. Peter had just broken up with Gen and had a lot to deal with, and Lara Jean’s own love life became quite complicated after her love letters were mailed without her permission.

좋아합니다 i like you is about how there’s no going back once someone confesses their feelings to another. Once Lara Jean and Peter K. actually commit to each other outside of their trope-y but kinda cute “fake relationship,” well…the rest is history.


Thank you to the amazing facilitators and interns that made this class so enjoyable! Now that I’ve covered every song in the playlist with an explanation or description of some sort, I’m going to end this with some cute gifs, enjoy and good luck on finals! xx

SEE WHAT I MEAN. ARE YOU KIDDING ME, SHE DEFINITELY LIKES HIM!
can you believe this was a spontaneous move !!
oof, my heart
they’re so beautiful i can’t even

review: thunderhead

thunderheadTITLE: Thunderhead

AUTHOR: Neal Shusterman

PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster

SYNOPSIS (Goodreads): Rowan and Citra take opposite stances on the morality of the Scythedom, putting them at odds, in the second novel of the chilling New York Times bestselling series from Neal Shusterman, author of the Unwind dystology.

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?


SPOILER-FREE REVIEW:

THAT WAS LITERALLY THE CRAZIEST POSSIBLE ENDING EVER.

Though the unexpected cliffhanger absolutely killed me, I still enjoyed Thunderhead, the sequel to Scythe. The world-building is really something else. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read. Thunderhead is smart and packed with enough action to keep the audience guessing until the final reveal. It deftly explores the concept of mortality and reconciliation with our humanity in a technology-driven futuristic utopian society.

I do wish that Citra and Rowan had more interaction and page time together. It was slightly disorienting to read about Rowan’s situation and then shift to Citra’s newfound life as a scythe, completing her gleanings. I also felt that some of the secondary characters who were introduced weren’t all that essential to the plot. There was definitely a surprise character that I totally DID NOT expect to make an appearance in this book…

However, I really loved the interactions between Scythe Curie and Scythe Anastasia (Citra)–give me a book all about their adventures together and I’ll gladly devour it in a single sitting! Both women are incredibly smart, and it was so interesting to delve into their thoughts and understand their perspectives in trying to manufacture a method to untangle themselves from the dangerous situation they were mercilessly thrown into.

Another interesting yet unsettling aspect of the book was the smart inclusion of the Thunderhead’s thoughts and feelings as a preface to almost every chapter. These interjections should have been jarring to read, but instead, they were almost poignant to a point, allowing me as a reader to glean (hahah) a little more insight about the history of the glittering world that the story is structured around.

Overall, though Thunderhead has a bit of “middle book syndrome,” it reads exactly like what it’s supposed to be, a (good) second book of a series that sets up a promising premise for the third. I can’t wait to see what else Shusterman adds to this series!

RATING: 3.75/5*
*Thank you to Simon Teen for sending me a copy of Scythe and Thunderhead! This in no way impacted the nature of my review, and all thoughts represented are my own.

 

bookstagram q & a

Hello, my lovely bookwyrms! I hope your holiday weekend was great. Because I reached 5,000 followers on bookstagram this month, (yes, holy crud, that is totally insane! I cannot wrap my mind around the fact that over 5,000 people have decided to tap the follow button.) I decided to hold a Q & A session with my bookstagram followers! They asked the questions, and I answered them.

I’ve bolded the questions and my bare-boned answers for the people who like to skim instead of close read. So without further ado…

pagesinparadise: If an author would write a book about your life, who would you choose? 

I love this question! Unfortunately, my life happens to be rather boring, so I’d want Sarah J. Maas to write it into something with lots of action and full out epic-ness. And maybe give me a Rhysand of my own? Or Rowan? Dammit, I’d even take Lorcan. Because, you know, brooding Fae warrior males are my favourite. 😉

zoe_hoibian: If you could spend a day with three fictional (book/movie/tv show) characters, who would it be and why?

1). Cath from Heartless. I’d stuff my face with rose macarons and other delectable baked treats.
2). Kaz from Six of Crows. Please teach me some of those lock-picking skills.
3). Sherlock Holmes from Sherlock. I just want to see his reaction to everything. I want need those powers of deductive reasoning! Maybe we’ll even solve a few crimes along the way. Preferably those that don’t involve Kaz.

travel.by.book: What’s your favorite genre?

Historical fiction. It’s such an oxymoron. You’d expect something historical to not be fiction and fiction to not be historical.

alinabooklover: Team Captain or Team Iron Man? Top 5/Top 10 favourite tv shows?

Hey, that’s two questions!! That’s a tough choice, but I think my heart’s with the Captain and my mind’s with Iron Man. As far as TV shows go, here’s a sneaky confession: I don’t watch TV often, BUT Sherlock is my absolute favourite! I also love Downton Abbey. Once Upon a Time is my guilty pleasure. I’ve only watched a few episodes of Outlander, but I like it so far. I have plans to binge-watch Mr. Robot, PoldarkDoctor WhoGrey’s Anatomy, Stranger Things, and House in the near future…

mybookacademy: Who are your top two fictional boyfriends AND hypothetically if you were in a vicious love triangle between them who would you pick??

Girl, you are vicious. I think you and Maas are molded from the same sheet of evil. (just kidding, you know I ❤ you, Sally!) But if you forced me to choose at knifepoint, I’d choose Rhysand from ACOMAF over Kaidan Rowe from Sweet Evil.

mylifeisanovelmylifeisanovelIf you could only read one series for the rest of your life, which series would you choose?

The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare. This trilogy is absolutely perfect! You can’t go wrong with a likeable, bookish main character. TID also contains one of the only love triangles that I didn’t have problems with.

bookish.marls: Would you rather read a book about your whole life or read a book about all conversations that had been said about you?

Conversations. I’ll feel like I’m reading minds. My life is (sadly) quite uneventful.

readingisinevitableWhat/who inspired you to start bookstagramming? How do you find inspiration for your pictures? What’s your favorite less-known book or series?

Xan from twirlingpages! Interestingly enough, we have mutual friends, though Xan and I have never met in real life. I find inspiration all around me. There’s so much raw beauty in nature and created beauty in music. And of course, I take into account of the book’s content and cover (especially the colour) whenever I take a photo. My favourite lesser-known series is Wendy Higgins’ Sweet Evil trilogy, featuring angels and demons and my favourite British drummer/badass!

sentrancedbookworm: If you had to change one thing about one of your favorite books, what would it be?

Nothing. If it’s my favourite book, there’s no way I’d want to tamper with anything. Although preventing a character I love from dying would be good for my bruised heart…

scarlingwolf719: Who are your top three book character crushes?!?!

You’re making me choose?!?! Fine.

1). Rhysand from A Court of Mist and Fury
2). Kaidan Rowe from Sweet Evil
3). Adrian Ivashkov from Bloodlines

fictionalpassionPopular character you don’t really like?

Alina Starkov from the Grisha trilogy. Sadly, she’s the reason why I didn’t enjoy the Grisha trilogy as much as everyone else seemed to.

libraryamongstarsWho’s your favourite Disney princess?

Ariel! #mermaidsforlife

bookhuggerreviews: If you could meet a fictional character and hang out with them, who would you choose?

Manon’s wildflower-loving wyvern, Abraxos. (from Queen of Shadows) I’d spoil him sick with wildflowers, and then bribe him with honey to take me flying through the skies. Or maybe he won’t need bribing.


I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it! I honestly loved answering all of your questions. Some of them took a loooong time to reflect on. (hello, multiple book crushes) If you have more questions, feel free to ask, and if not, I will see you in my next post.